Operation Pirate Town nets more than 70 suspected gang members in Harbor area
Police and federal agents descended on neighborhoods in the Harbor Gateway and Wilmington area of Los Angeles early Thursday, arresting dozens of reputed gang members and their associates in a raid targeting illegal weapons and drug dealing by local gang members.
At least 80 people had been arrested as of 10 a.m. in the raid by Los Angeles Police officers and agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives among numerous federal agencies.
It culminated a 2 1/2-year investigation into the Dodgetown Crips and Rancho San Pedro gang, which used the neighborhood as the hub of illegal activities that stretched across the region.
The prime target was Rancho San Pedro or "RSP," a gang that began in the 1970s and now includes 600 members and 400 associates, authorities said.
A total of 66 individuals were taken into custody on state weapons and narcotics charges and 14 defendants were arrested pursuant to federal indictments.
In all, a dozen federal grand jury indictments named 26 defendants charged with offenses including distribution of methamphetamine, immigration violations and illegal weapon sales. County prosecutors said they will file charges against about 145 defendants on state charges, including illegally possessing weapons and selling drugs that included methamphetamine and heroin.
In all, 1,300 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were involved in Operation Pirate Town.
Besides the LAPD and ATF, agencies that participated in the operation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
During the investigation, undercover law enforcement investigators and informants purchased 90 firearms and approximately 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of crack cocaine, 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2 kilograms of heroin and 26 pounds of marijuana, police said.
On Thursday morning, 14 additional guns were seized in addition to a silencer, methamphetamine and cocaine and 10 pounds of marijuana, according to authorities.
The Harbor area has been an ongoing target of police looking to break the grip of gangs that become deeply entrenched in neighborhoods they use as a base of operations for crime and violence.
In 2010, the LAPD and federal law enforcement targeted the Harbor-Gateway area of Los Angeles in a sweep that netted more than 60 arrests and they said was "aimed at breaking the back of the distribution network of illegal drugs and weapons."
In addition to Los Angeles, police raided locations in Long Beach and La Puente, where federal authorities were targeting at least 10 gangs authorities said acted as suppliers for gangs in other parts of Los Angeles and Southern California.
Among the gangs named by authorities were Eastside Pain, Puente 13 as well as members of East Side Wilmas, North Side Wilmas, Harbor City Crips, Compton Avenue Crips, Fruit Town Piru, El Monte Flores and Primera Flats.
The operation was an outgrowth of arrests in 2008 targeting street gangs in the "ghost town" area of Wilmington, authorities said.
-- Andrew Blankstein